By Teresa M. Harkins La Vita
This Emerging Issues Analysis analyzes the District Court's ruling in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. The author addresses the impact that this decision, out of the United States District Court in Massachusetts, may have on the future of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Ultimately the author concludes that the future depends upon how the case progresses through the appeals process.
“In 2009, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed suit in the United States District Court in Massachusetts challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of various petitioners,” writes Teresa M. Harkins La Vita. “The Department of Justice defended the action on behalf of the government.”
“The case was ultimately tried before Judge Joseph Tauro, who has served on the United States District Court since his appointment to the bench by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972. GLAD represented petitioners whose same-sex marriages were recognized as valid in their home states, including Massachusetts, but were denied recognition at the federal level,” reports the author. “The petitioners argued that Section 3 of DOMA violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution in denying their marriages equal recognition under the law. Underlying the claims were the denial of federal benefits to these same-sex couples (or widows of a same-sex marriage) that were otherwise available to members of opposite sex marriages.”
The author proceeds to explain in detail the decision of Judge Tauro. She then analyzes the impact of the Gill decision and offers her perspective on what the decision will mean if the Obama administration appeals, or does not appeal, the decision.
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Teresa M. Harkins La Vita is currently an associate at the Levitt Law Group in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and focuses her practice on family law and probate matters including divorce, custody and parenting plans, support, paternity, and guardianship. Prior to joining the firm in 2009, Attorney La Vita served for two years as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Justices of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. She is an honors graduate of New England Law -- Boston, where she earned multiple scholastic achievement awards. Attorney La Vita serves clients in litigation, collaborative law, and mediation. She is certified to represent clients in Limited Assistance Representation agreements and is trained as a Guardian ad Litem in family matters. Attorney La Vita is also on the adjunct faculty of New England Law -- Boston, where she is a Legal Research & Writing professor.